Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Belgian Strong Schematics

I'm spending the evening ensconced in my home office, sipping beer, organizing my now voluminous beer notes, and, finally, figuring out some of the subtleties of this weekend's brewing exercise, a Belgian Strong in the vein of Duvel. Here's the issues I figure I need to contend with that go beyond the relatively skeletal Mosher recipe I started with:

1. Water quality, in a beer this simple, is probably key. Not having set up carbon filtration yet, I anticipate using half boiled tap water, and half bottled spring water, roughly. I figure that'll yield a slightly cleaner, tighter beer.

2. I'm planning a thorough cold secondary--this may kill or severely inhibit the yeast. Moortgat re-yeasts at bottling. It's possible I could do a shorter secondary and just focus on a long, cool aging in bottle, but I'm inclined to be a stickler for details in a beer this minimalistic. I think it might be best to have a warm primary for one week, rack to a slightly cooler secondary off the trub, then rack once more (retaining a small, clean sample of the yeast sediment for later) to the colder secondary. That colder secondary I'll give about two weeks, shooting for something like 30 degrees. The extra racking, in addition to procuring a re-yeasting culture, will provide for a clearer beer.

3. Mosher recommends a step infusion with a protein rest, in the interests of clarity. I agree but need to come up with temperatures. This needs to be a very dry beer. I ran into a step mash program designed for dry stout when researching Jeremiah's unfortunately named stout. That mash ran something like 145 for 30-45 minutes, 150-152 for 15, and 158 for 30. That certainly ought to convert everything... I'd like this beer to get down to about 1010. Brewery Ommegang, to get Hennepin down to a very dry 1008, uses a multiple-step mash starting at 122º F and ending at 152º F. That oughta work too. I propose a protein rest of 122-125 for 20-30 minutes, following by a water addition to get up to 145 for 30-40 minutes, followed by direct heat up to 152 for 25 minutes, followed by a mash out. Conveniently enough, the most efficient step mash I've ever done (following Papazian's Silver Dollar Porter routine) also involves exactly 10.5 lbs of grain. This means I can steal water quantities. Thus:

Mash 10.5 lbs Belgian Pils into 2.5 gallons of 130 degree water. Hold 25 minutes.
Add 5 quarts of hotter water to raise temperature to 145.
(ProMash somehow isn't helping here. Papazian uses 200 degree water to hit 150, so perhaps 190 degree water would hit about 145?)
Hold around 145 for 30-40 minutes. Apply direct heat to raise to 152. Hold 25 minutes. Test for conversion as needed and mash out by adding a gallon or so of simmering water. Sparge with 4 gallons at 170 degrees.

Seems like a logical mash to me and ought to produce full conversion and a highly fermentable wort.

4. I'm running the recipe specs in Pro-Mash to check issues of gravity and bitterness. Duvel reaches 1056 with malt alone. 10.5 lbs Pils produces, in theory, 1058 at 75% efficiency. Close enough. If my efficiency gets out of hand I can always dilute the final wort slightly when I'm getting ready to end the boil. The corn sugar quantity is tricky. I plan on adding Mosher's 1.75 lbs, though I think it's a little higher than the Duvel percentage at that point. Priming will require 6 oz for the batch, resulting in the sharp carbonation essential to the style. This would raise the final gravity to 1075-1076, which is just slightly over Duvel. I have a hunch this recipe will come out just right if I put 5.5 gallons in the primary. So, I'll follow the Mosher grain and sugar quantities. I will, however, take the precaution of adding the sugar at the very end of the boil, lest I produce unintended caramelization and overly rich flavors. This is, as recent tastings have reminded me, a supremely pale and delicate beer.

5. Mosher's hop additions produce 62 IBU's according to ProMash. Seems about right to me. Would it be wrong to add an extra pinch of of Northern Brewers to compensate for lost bitterness and swing up the hop flavor a tad by delaying the flavor additions from 30 minutes remaining to 20? Or to add 1/2 oz. of Styrian Goldings nearer the end instead? I'm envisioning the following hop schedule:

1.25 N.B.'s 60 minutes
1 oz Saaz 30
1 oz Styrian Goldings 30
1 oz Saaz at cool-down
.5 oz Goldings at cool-down

All are whole flower but for the Northern Brewers by the way. I need to be careful about the final steeping hops as my beers cool down very quickly--because my tap water is ridiculously cold. I might let the beer sit for a minute before turning on the chiller to get a little better hop extraction.

6. So the goal is to get the beer from 1075 or so down to 1010 or 1011, for an alcohol content of about 8.5 and a hop level that is bitter, but but not at all overly bitter, with hop aroma, but nothing overwhelming. Duvel, as I think of it, has that subtle, breezy Saaz thing going on, but not a lot of hop flavor, which may justify those odd 30 minute additions.

7. Aerate well and ferment with Wyeast 1388, in my case by pitching it on the yeast cake left by La Chemise Enflamme.

8. Rack around as described above, bottle with priming and a small dose of yeast, warm condition a week and then cold condition until I can't take it anymore. 1-2 months in the garage fridge?

Surely there are loose ends here, but that might work pretty well. After this slavishly imitative project, I'll probably come up with a loosier, goosier spiced Belgian strong in a few months, maybe with some aromatic malts, a touch more color, some star anise, a heavy dry hopping, something like that?


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